Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Hi folks. It's been an embarrassingly long time since I last posted, but today's news on the Higgs boson has brought me out of hiding. I want to share my thoughts on today's announcement from the CMS and ATLAS collaborations on their searches for the Higgs boson. I'm a member of the CMS collaboration, but these are my views and don't represent those of the collaboration.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
|Not a DeLorean. You're doing it wrong.|
Welcome to the second Physics Challenge Award show!
Saturday, November 5, 2011
|A very cold person points out Betelgeuse|
But you know what always cheers me up? Calculating things! Hooray! So let's take a look at the ways Betelgeuse could end its life (even if it's not going to happen tomorrow) and how these would affect Earth.
Monday, October 31, 2011
|Marty McFly realizes he is running out|
of time to submit his solution
Why should you submit a solution to our problem? Lots of reasons! The top ten reasons as decided by a random sample of me are given below the break.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Recently I set out to hold a Battleship programming tournament here among some of the undergraduates. Naturally, I myself wanted to win. So, I got to thinking about the game, and developed what I like to call "the linear theory of battleship".
A demonstration of the fruits of my efforts can be found here. Below, my aim is to guide you through how I developed this theory, as an exercise in using physics to solve an interesting unknown problem.
Monday, September 5, 2011
|Doc Brown didn't have a time-travel backup plan.|
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
It is a very nice popular introduction to Information Theory, a modern scientific pursuit to quantify information started by Claude Shannon in 1948.
This got me thinking. Increasingly, people try to hold conversations on Twitter, where posts are limited to 140 characters. Just how much information could you convey in 140 characters?
After some coding and investigation, I created this, an experimental twitter English compression algorithm capable of compressing around 140 words into 140 characters.
So, what's the story? Warning: It's a bit of a story, the juicy bits are at the end.
UPDATE: Tomo in the comments below made a chrome extension for the algorithm
Monday, August 22, 2011
|The rotting corpses of sunbeams cause global warming.|
Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about was a fairly well-posed problem in Futurama. In the episode "Crimes of the Hot," all of the Earth's robots vent their various "exhausts" into the sky at the same time, using the thrust to push the Earth into an orbit slightly further away from the sun. As a result of this new orbit, the year is made longer by "exactly one week." Anything that quantitative is pretty much asking to be analyzed. Let's explore this problem a bit more then, why not?
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
The iPhone 3GS has a built-in accelerometer, the LIS302DL, which is primarily used for detecting device orientation. I wanted to come up with something interesting to do with it, but first I had to see how it did on some basic tests. It turns out that the tests gave really interesting results themselves! A drop test gave clean results and a spring test gave fantastic data; however a pendulum test gave some problems.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Monday, July 18, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Sunday, July 3, 2011
|Citizen's Bank Park|
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
|This picture allows us to set a lower bound on the number|
of creatures that ever lived of ~4.
Anyways, I didn't really make it too far in the book. In fact, I only made it to the first sentence of the second paragraph of the first chapter, when I encountered this line:
"The number of individuals which has populated the Earth since life began is beyond estimation."
Horse feathers, I say! Horse Feathers!
The number of things that ever lived may very well be unknowable, but it's certainly not beyond estimation. So below, Alemi and I each provide an estimate for the total number of creatures that have ever lived on Earth.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Thursday, May 5, 2011
|Warning: picture has little or no relation to this post.|
Friday, April 22, 2011
Let's destroy the earth with technology.
A while ago, I read the novel Postsingular by Rudy Rucker, and in the first chapter the Earth gets destroyed, and then undestroyed, and then the novel unfolds and the Earth's likelihood is threatened again, and it looks like the Earth will be destroyed, but it isn't.
How does all of this craziness happen you might ask: nanobots! The story revolves around little self-replicating robots. The story explores what it would be like to live in a world where every surface on Earth was coated in little computers, all of which were networked together. It's certainly a neat idea, but whenever you have self-replicating things, you need to worry a bit about what might happen if they get out of control.
At some point in elementary school I got into the habit of reading Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis every time that I got sick. I found it strangely comforting to be reminded that while I might have scarlet fever and be intermittently hallucinating about Mickey Mouse, at least I had not been (spoiler alert!) turned into a giant cockroach and disowned by my family.
Today is Earth Day! The earth has seen better days, and I got too depressed googling various environmental problems to even come up with a suitable list of examples. However, look on the bright side: things could be much, much worse. To explore how much worse it could be, here's a few of my favorite works of post-apocalyptic fiction - perfect reading for Earth Day. Skip past the cut to check them out.
|The Sun [photo courtesy of NASA]|
In honor of my literary doppelganger, I will now, having already had the world end in fire, try my hand at ice.
Let's try to answer the question: "If the sun blinks out of existence this instant, what is the temperature of the Earth as a function of time?"
Friday, April 8, 2011
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Shutting down the government means that 800,000 federal employees will go without pay , lots of services will be put on hold and you won't be able to go to the Smithsonian or the Grand Canyon. So it's kind of a big deal. Since the ramifications of a government shutdown are so serious, there must be some really important disagreements holding it up, right? Right?
A quick search (for example, here), shows that the big hold-up in passing the budget comes over a disagreement on how much money should be cut from the budget. Republicans want to cut $40 billion dollars and Democrats are willing to cut $34.5 billion dollars.
So the hold-up is over $5.5 billion. Let's consider how utterly and stupidly insignificant this is.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Update [04/02/11]: We made the code faster, so check out the new and improved Clicky!
Hey, kids! Would you like to be a bit player in a grand experiment with poorly thought out objectives? If so, then check this out. It's a little interactive "game"  that Alemi and Matt coded up.
When you click on the link, you will be redirected to a page showing something like this:
Friday, April 1, 2011
|Coming soon to a Kindle near you!|
Well, lots of reasons actually. For one thing, it's really hard. Books are, like, hundreds of pages long. I barely stay coherent and on-topic in a one page blog post. For another thing, it takes lots of time. I hardly have enough time to do my laundry in time scales deemed "socially acceptable." How could I ever find the time to write a book?
Despite these potential setbacks, the millions and millions of dollars that writers make still seems really appealing. Who wouldn't want to be rich and popular forever. I mean, just look at Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe and Herman Melville!
Luckily, a solution presented itself. I don't have time to write a book now, but I found an old copy of my novel Blue Dragon laying around the house that I was able to sell using the immense popularity of the Virtuosi brand. The book will be published this summer by Clark Hall Publishing. Here are a few advance reviews:
Thursday, March 31, 2011
|Perhaps Step 2 was to steal copper?|
Nickel: Named after Satan or Old Nick
This confused me greatly. What the heck is Santa Claus doing hanging out with Satan ?
After a bit of poking around on the internet, I found an article from 1931 by a guy named William Baldwin called The Story of Nickel, How "Old Nick's" Gnomes were Outwitted. Needless to say, this did not allay my confusion.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
I was reading a discussion on green energy recently, in particular wind power, where the following claim was made
enough wind turbines to power the world would cover the surface of the world.Now, this was quickly decried by supporters of wind power, but the claim has stuck with me. The question on my mind today is: How much of the earth's surface would have to be covered to power the earth with wind turbines?
Thursday, March 17, 2011
|In an emergency, Richard Dean Anderson's mullet can|
be used as a flotation device and/or standard kilogram.
We had before indicated vaguely that there may be some sort of prizes involved in this competition. After consultation with our financial advisors and breaking Alemi's piggy bank, we have decided on the following prizes:
First Place: A brand new CRC Handbook!
Second Place: An autographed  picture of Scott Bakula!
Honorable Mention: Nothing! 
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
|Saturn. It's a planet!|
See you tomorrow!
Monday, February 7, 2011
Between building airplanes and playfully destroying everyone else in my apartment at Super Smash Brothers, my roommate Nathan brought up an interesting recent fact about LeBron James. He told me that LeBron scored 11 consecutive field goals (not in football... you know who you are) in one game. Apparently this was a pretty special event, but how rare is it for a player of LeBron's caliber? TO THE SCIENCE-MOBILE!
Sunday, February 6, 2011
So, some of us over here at Virtuosi Central have organized a challenge problem for the physics community here at Cornell. Well, we thought we would open up the challenge to the great wide world. The more submissions the merrier.
The deadline is March 1, and submissions can be sent to our email.
Details can be found at bit.ly/physicschallenge.
Good luck and happy hunting.
|Corky, Matt, and Jared, with the experimental apparatus.|
Friday, February 4, 2011
I've always found it interesting that the way we perceive color is very different from how light actually works. Most of us have three different types of cones in our eyes and we perceive different colors as different combinations of stimuli to these three types of cones. In a very rough sense, when we look at a color, our brain gets three different numbers to figure out what it is. Light, on the other hand, is a bunch of photons with some distribution of wavelengths. To fully describe the light coming from an object you need a function that shows how many photons are at any given wavelength, which is way more complicated than just the three numbers we get.
So what about all that information that gets thrown away on the way to our brain? Are we missing out on a magical world of super-duper colors and wonder? Not really, but skip past the break anyways to find out more.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Sunday, January 30, 2011
|Ned Flanders' credit card doesn't satisfy the Luhn checksum, |
but could probably still be erased by a magnetar.
A while ago I heard that a magnetar can erase all the world's credit cards from half the distance to the moon. I did a little research and it seems like this is the go-to "fun fact" about magnetars. Almost every time they are brought up in a popular science article, their credit card-erasing prowess is sure to get a mention. So let's check it out!
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
Monday, January 3, 2011
I have taken another one of his popular poems, "Christmas Bells," and hidden its first verse in a huge mess of random letters. The message:
Sounds pretty pleasant at the start. But it was written at the height of the Civil War and it gets pretty heavy towards the end. Longfellow was an ardent abolitionist and most of his poems contain allusions to the plight of slaves. He was also close friends with Senator Charles Sumner, whose own fiery oratory and opposition to slavery famously put him on the wrong side of a Southern cane.